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Half Dream: Jin Xing Dance Theatre performs with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra on April 25 at Stanford.

Asia Tech

This year's Pan-Asian Music Festival puts technology in the spotlight

By Colleen Watson

STANFORD'S annual Pan-Asian Music Festival is really geeking out on the stage this year. Not only will there be performances from world-class musicians and artists from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, but this year technology will stand beside these musicians, or even take center stage.

In a concert called "Pacific Rim of Wire: An Online Concert with China" (April 29 at Dinkelspiel Auditorium), musicians from Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) will perform with musicians from Beijing live via a real-time webcast, for which there will be an audience in Stanford as well as Beijing.

Chris Chafe, director of the center, said that the CCRMA is a mixture of musicians, scientists and engineers.

"It's definitely cutting-edge technology," says Stanford music professor Jindong Cai, who founded the Stanford Pan-Asian Music Festival in 2005. "In today's technology age people can make music together even if they are 6,000 miles away."

The combination of artists and technologists is an experiment, and the one thing they have in common is a passion for music.

Performances include an improvised duet between Chafe on the celleto (an electric violin) in Stanford and Hongmei Yu on the erhu (a traditional Chinese violin) in Beijing.

The concert also features the premiere performance for Stanford's Laptop Orchestra, where musicians take the stage with their laptops to produce music not found on iTunes or anywhere else. Chafe said that each musician has his own speaker, describing it as a salad bowl around the musician. "It makes for a very different kind of sound."

Founded earlier this year, the Laptop Orchestra is directed by Ge Wang, and will play a mixture of composed pieces as well as improvisational pieces in which the engineers will write code for music on the fly while onstage, which should be more interesting than it sounds with opportunities for some great music and phenomenal disasters. Their computers can synthesize and create many different types of sounds, and both Chafe and Cai said the concert will be something different. For the last piece, the audience will participate in Pauline Oliveros' Tuning Meditations.

"This is a great place to have a first go at it," says Chafe.

Every year, the festival focuses on a region, country or art form from Asia. This year, with the Olympics headed to Beijing, China was an obvious choice.

Some of the other performances include Cui Jian, who's known as the grandfather of Chinese rock music and whose "Nothing to My Name" was the anthem to the 1989 protest movement. His music has been banned a couple of times by the Chinese government. Six long-term band members in a mostly acoustic set will join Jian onstage on May 4 at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

"Postcards From China" features Jindong Cai conducting the Stanford Philharmonia with guest artists Wang Guo-Tong and Gunzhi Cui in a program featuring concertos for Chinese instruments. The program also includes Postcards and Butterfly Lovers violin concerto on Thursday, April 25, at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

Jin Xing Dance Theatre, which features the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus conducted by Jindong Cai, performs Red and Black, Half Dream and Carmina Burana with more than 300 performers onstage on Friday, April 25, at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium.

Nine Buddhist priests and nuns from Meizhu in rural southern China express the concept of Buddhist salvation through music, dance, drama and song in "Xianghua Buddhist Ceremonial Music" with Receiving Buddha and The Louts Pool on Saturday, May 3, at the Memorial Church.

THE STANFORD PAN-ASIAN MUSIC FESTIVAL happens April 12–May 4. For a full schedule of lectures and performances, visit

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